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Swamped Union Pacific halts all rail shipments from US west coast for a week

Shippers in America, slammed by record rates and delays, have been hit with another mini black swan event.
Railroad operator Union Pacific informed customers on Wednesday it will temporarily halt shipments of international containers from all west coast ports to its Global IV terminal in Chicago for up to a week, beginning on Sunday night.

The suspension includes containers from the California ports of Los Angeles, Long Beach, Oakland, and Tacoma, Washington.

“We believe this change will allow the transportation supply chain to begin working off the backlog of Global IV destined trains, while freeing up railcar assets to support import loading needs on the West Coast. We are working closely with the ocean carriers and collaborating wherever possible to improve the health of the supply chain,” a spokeswoman for Union Pacific said.

Other railway operators in the US such as BNSF Railway are also struggling with the extreme consumer demand and Covid-19 working dislocations.

“International supply chains have been straining under the weight of economic growth since the early stages of the COVID-19 recovery. Container processing at port terminals in Southern California has increased and Union Pacific’s rail shipments to and from the ports have risen and are near record highs. Union Pacific is concurrently experiencing significant congestion at our inland intermodal terminals, most notably in Chicago,” the Union Pacific spokeswoman added.

Chicago remains the biggest onward destination for cargo arriving at America’s top two ports, Los Angeles and Long Beach, ports that are having to contend with an early peak season and the impact of extra thousands of containers arriving late from key Chinese export hub, Yantian, where operations were hampered last month thanks to an outbreak of Covid-19.

Shippers looking north of the border for solutions face other problems. Wildfires in Canada have seriously impacted rail services to and from the west coast port of Vancouver this month.

Sam Chambers

Starting out with the Informa Group in 2000 in Hong Kong, Sam Chambers became editor of Maritime Asia magazine as well as East Asia Editor for the world’s oldest newspaper, Lloyd’s List. In 2005 he pursued a freelance career and wrote for a variety of titles including taking on the role of Asia Editor at Seatrade magazine and China correspondent for Supply Chain Asia. His work has also appeared in The Economist, The New York Times, The Sunday Times and The International Herald Tribune.


  1. Wouldn’t be a problem of the RRs were cutting everything to the bare functioning minimum. All in the name of hitting unrealistic operating ratios.

    The customers need to start lobbying and suing the railroads.

    1. Right, because of course lawsuits always solve real world problems. And of course we KNOW that there aren’t enormous supply chain dislocations all over the world. No, it’s a plot by the Illuminati…or Communists…or Capitalist Swine…or all of the above in cahoots.

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